Life on the road as a rock star can get weird, especially when you’re throwing big bucks and partying. Many famous rock stars, including Ozzy Osbourne, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham and others, might even be considered lucky to get away relatively unscathed, given the amount of fights on and off stage (and of assorted hijinks) they’ve endured along the way. . Below are eight of the craziest and most bizarre touring stories in rock music history.
While onstage during a performance in Des Moines, Iowa on January 20, 1982, Ozzy Osbourne allegedly bit off the head of a bat that someone in the audience had thrown onto the stage. Osbourne believed it was made of rubber, so he picked it up and sank his teeth into it, but it turned out that the bat was indeed the real deal.
“Immediately, however, something was wrong. Very wrong,” Osbourne wrote in his memoir, I am Ozzy. “To begin with, my mouth was instantly full of this hot, viscous liquid, with the worst aftertaste you could imagine. I could feel it staining my teeth and running down my chin. Then the head in my mouth twitched. Oh Fuck me, I thought, I didn’t just go and eat a fucking bat, did I?
Osbourne was then rushed to the ER where a doctor confirmed the bat was real after all and the rockstar had potentially been exposed to rabies. For the remainder of the tour, Osbourne had to receive a series of injections from doctors as a preventative against the virus.
During The Who’s US tour at Fillmore East in New York City in May 1969, an undercover police officer allegedly jumped on stage. He rushed the British rock band and tried to pull vocalist Roger Daltrey’s microphone away to warn them of heavy smoke billowing from a fire nearby.
But Daltrey didn’t see the smoke and didn’t realize the man was actually law enforcement. He started fighting him, and then guitarist Pete Townshend joined the fray.
“There was a warrant out for Pete and my arrest because we kicked a cop off the scene,” Daltrey told AOL (via Yahoo!) in 2018. “He was in plainclothes. He ran up on stage while we were in the middle of “Tommy” and grabbed my mic. Pete came over and kicked him in the ass.
Luckily for both, the charges were eventually dropped.
Around 1968, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham reportedly rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle – a gift he received from the band for his 25th birthday – through the halls and lobby of Los Angeles’ legendary Chateau Marmont, which damaged the hotel carpet with tire tracks. He repeated the stunt again at the Continental Hyatt House Hotel and the Andaz West Hollywood. Meanwhile, Robert Plant is believed to have shouted his infamous “I’m a god of gold!” line (recreated later in almost known) from one of those hotel balconies while Bonham got inside.
The bat incident wasn’t Ozzy’s first brush with controversy while on the road; in 1984, he found himself in a particular competition with Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, while the two artists were on tour together.
According to the hair metal band’s 2001 autobiography, The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band, Osbourne sniffed a row of ants on the sidewalk, urinated on the ground and began lapping it up. He then challenged Sixx to do the same, but the bassist soon realized that taking on the Prince of Darkness wasn’t easy.
“We were a wild young band and he kind of took us under his wing,” Sixx told Page Six in 2019. “We thought we could compete with that, but you can’t with Ozzy. He won.”
While Sixx claims it’s all true, former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee argued that some of the antics described weren’t entirely accurate, namely that Osbourne never sniffed a row of ants. “I was there and never saw any ants,” Jake E. Lee told Tone-Talk. “I was right there…Ozzy sniffed out a stupid little little spider that was crawling through. There were no ants.
In 1972, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and saxophonist Bobby Keys allegedly set fire to the original Playboy Mansion in Chicago as the couple did party-related hijinks.
“We managed to set fire to a bathroom in the Playboy Mansion. We didn’t notice the curtains catching fire while we were sitting on the jeans smoking,” Richards said. NPR in 2015. Luckily, the structure remained intact and was even put up for sale in 2018 for a whopping $3.7 million.
In 2002, Oasis was on tour in Germany when three of the band members, including singer Liam Gallagher, got into a serious fight at the Bayerischer Hof nightclub in Munich.
According to reports, 80 police officers were called in to keep the peace and break up the melee, and Gallagher lost several of his teeth in the altercation, which resulted in the arrest of five people (including Gallagher and two other members of Oasis), a fine of €50,000 and the cancellation of two tour dates in Germany.
In 2018, Liam Gallagher said The Guardian“I remember we were sitting at a table under a balcony, and our security guard grabs us by the neck, drags us onto the fucking table, and the next minute there’s a geezer on the balcony falling af**king glass table over our heads, but security got us out of the way, or he could have killed us. And then it exploded, man.
During Van Halen’s 1982 tour, the rock band added a (soon to be notorious) little detail to their tour contract: the band wanted M&M’s but with a caveat: “ATTENTION: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWNS”.
While the seemingly random pilot has certainly drawn laughs over the years, it was actually less bizarre than it seems. For the band, this served as a test to ensure that each concert hall read the document carefully and followed each technical specification included.
“There was so much equipment and so many human beings to operate it,” singer David Lee Roth explained in his memoir, Crazy about the heat. “When I walk backstage, if I see a brown M&M in this bowl… Well, check all the production. Guaranteed that you will come across a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you would encounter a problem.
If the band saw backstage at Brown M&M’s, they would get angry because they knew the concert organizers probably hadn’t read the entire contract and therefore couldn’t guarantee that their show would go on safely and without clashes. In one instance, Roth ransacked his dressing room because he found brown M&M candy backstage.
While on tour in 2011, then Coheed and Cambria bassist Michael Todd allegedly walked into a Walgreens and showed a pharmacist a text on his phone saying he had a bomb and would blow up the pharmacy unless is not receiving OxyContin. Todd then left the store with six bottles of painkillers, called a cab, and returned to the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts to perform the show.
However, the police tracked him down and arrested him for armed robbery and possession of a Class B controlled substance.
“Todd was arrested today on what we consider to be very serious charges and will therefore not be completing the current tour,” the band later wrote on its website, following the incident. “We are surprised, to say the least, and will discuss the situation with Michael after the tour.”
Todd was later sentenced to one year of house arrest and three years of probation after pleading guilty to the charges. Meanwhile, touring keyboardist Wes Styles took over on bass for the rest of the tour.